Sunday, October 28, 2012

Just a note

As I said, I'm very busy at the moment, but I'll most definitely go on with 1979 on Tuesday at least. But I'm announcing a second project I'll do simultaneously. As you see, Fritz is updating his reviews and I decided to do the same, but not with all the years and performances. I might change a few places in the rankings (I'll give a note whenever that happens) and I'm going to rewatch and change some reviews as well, particularly in years that I did at the beginning. The reason is simple: this whole thing started off as an experiment and I feel I learned so many things since that I simply get a bit embarassed if I see my old rankings and reviews. This might cost my previous winners their respective #1 places and some might improve a lot. :)

The years to be reevaluated: 1940, 1948, 1973, 1974, 1998, 2009

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jane Fonda in The China Syndrome

First let me say what an honor and a privilege it was to review this brilliant lady's fantastic nominated performances and that I'm sad that it's the last time that I can say that... 

Jane Fonda received her fifth Oscar nomination and a Bafta Award for playing Kimberly Wells, a shallow reporter who finds out a cover-up about safety issues at a nuclear plant in the controversial movie, The China Syndrome. The 1979 Best Actress race was between Sally Field and Bette Midler, but Sally Field was probably the overwhelming favorite considering her sweep of the precursor awards. I suppose Jane must have been the dark horse to win the award. She had just won her second Oscar so there must have been some leftover love for her and the movie received three other nominations. I suppose she was third, eventually.

Although The China Syndrome is not a favorite of many, for me it's one of the most intriguing and thought-provoking movies ever made in Hollywood. It never ceased to amaze me with the director's skill to create tension or his ability to discuss some really complicated topics so effortlessly. I'd say the movie deserved additional nominations for Best Picture and Best Director and should have won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Jack Lemmon gives an outstanding, unforgettable performance, which would have deserved a Best Actor win, too, but I also agree with Dustin Hoffman's win. Michael Douglas seems to be the weakest link of the three lead actors as he was never able to make his character more layered and he ended up being a bit one-dimensional.

Still, whenever I watch a Jane Fonda movie, it's a Fondafest for me anyway and after a while I just ignore every other aspect of the picture. You know, I often get a Great Glenn or Maggie or whatever mania, it all seems nothing compared to what I feel when I see Jane on the screen. Every time this lady opens her mouth, I'm hooked, staring at the screen as if it was my first time watching a film. I'm quite simply in awe of her versatility, the uncertainty around her and her enourmous star power. I've never seen another actress who can excel in both the technical and emotional part of a performance while also having a real movie star aura around her. And the commitment tp her political activism just makes her work even more compelling as you can clearly see that every performance of hers is a testament to what she believes is right. And yet she avoids being preachy and she lets the performance speak for itself (I guess this is the part that many people disagree with).

That being said, Jane's work as Kimberly Wells in The China Syndrome is widely considered to be one of her least passionate and most toned down, technical performance, which lacks the thing that many of us love about Jane the most: that usual feeling of tension that's present in each of her performances up to The China Syndrome. She visibly gained confidence over the seventies and The China Syndrome is the first movie when it becomes really obvious: she's an actress at the peak of her career, simple as that.

To tell the truth, I was really concerned about how objective I can be about this performance and how honest I will be in this review when I know that this is my last review about Jane and it feels like an obligation to rave about her. Since I didn't use to be a huge fan of this particular performance, I thought I probably should have chosen Klute to be my last reviewed Fonda vehicle and then I could have said goodbye to her with a #1 place in my ranking. Then I started watching The China Syndrome and all my doubts disappeared. I'm not saying that Jane makes no mistakes as Jane would be the first to admit she's not perfect. And I would be the second to say that. Jane is not a "perfect actress" in the Meryl Streep or Katharine Hepburn sense of the word, even her best performances are flawed in a way and that's what makes them so human and believable and that's the reason why I repeatedly keep falling for her. The flaws and imperfections are probably the most exciting things in Jane's performances. I think for her that's just the way of identifying with her characters and this results in the lack of distance between the viewer and Jane. While "perfect actresses" talk down from the screen, Jane whispers everything to your ear, sitting right next to you. And this is what I found out while watching The China Syndrome: it lacks the visibly deep emotionality and passion of other Jane Fonda performances (something for which I thought I loved her the most) and yet I'm just as drawn to Kimberly as I was to Bree Daniels or Gloria Beaty. I get it now. I get Jane Fonda in general. Her greatest skill is revealing human imperfection and she does it like nobody else. It's easy to say that she's your favorite actress after Klute (who wouldn't at the moment). It's not about the first impression, the second one counts just as much.

So I started to wonder why Kimberly is so different from all the other characters Jane's ever played. Easy: Kimberly is a person full of confidence and determination: she knows she has a good job, that people love her and she's not ashamed of being a puppet of men. Nothing really turns her on except for the prospect of moving up the career ladder. And yet Jane shows us that Kimberly has not yet turned into Diana Christensen and that she still has some sense of justice. Jane doesn't necessarily portray Kimberly only as a coward conformist (sure that's a part of her conception of the character), but also as a person who wants to do more with her life and therefore she makes some sacrifices in the present.

What I also admired about Jane is how well she avoided being overwhelmed by the story. She constantly had to refelect on the main storyline of the Ventana Nuclear Power Plant, while also developing her character. Jane didn't get much screentime, but she uses the little she has very wisely and she knew she had to sacrifice being showy to show the awakening of Kimberly, which was way more important (it may have cost her the Oscar, but communicated the message of the movie far better). To me, this is the performance that Jane Fonda can be the most proud of as a political activist (too bad that she rarely talks about this one). She's gets to be a revolutionary simply by showing how an ordinary person can realize things going on in her environment. Kimberly is like watching yourself in the mirror: she's, like all of us, a compromising, flawed human being, but as Jane wonderfully points out, it's more than enough to make a difference.

Since I'm flawed myself, I wanted just a little breakdown from Jane, or at least one showy moment and when it comes in the end, it's like a volcano erupting. You can just see the tears of a person overwhelmed by the circumstances. Kimberly says to tv audiences, while crying that she can't give an objective opinion about Jack Goddell as she became too involved with the situation. It's something I felt: I became so overwhelmed by Jane's performance here that I'm incapable of being objective. And yet, I feel that if I was sentimental about Jane here, it would be like spitting her in the eye. The brutal honesty of this part just doesn't let me be something else other than honest.

In conclusion, Jane Fonda is nothing short of amazing in The China Syndrome. What could seem to be one of her least passionate performances is in fact one of the most mysterious and layered ones she's ever given. As usual, she commands every scene as well as develops her character beautifully, adding new layers and dimensions to her in every minute. Jane so wonderously portrays Kimberly's awakening and development as a person that you just marvel at every little detail in this performance. Kimberly is right up there with Jane's finest performances and for this she gets a big fat last

What do you think? :) 

I don't know when the other reviews come, I'll be busy next week, but next Monday, I might be able to review Marsha.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Next Year


So the nominees were:
  • Jill Clayburgh in Starting Over
  • Sally Field in Norma Rae
  • Jane Fonda in The China Syndrome
  • Marsha Mason in Chapter Two
  • Bette Midler in The Rose
A fantastic-looking year. Will I go with the two favorites (Field and Midler) who have tons of fans, will I go with the less popular ladies (Clayburgh and Mason) or will I use the last opportunity to reward my favorite actress?

What do you think? Who's your pick? What's your prediction for my ranking? :)


My ranking of the nominees so far...

  1. Jane Fonda in Klute
  2. Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire
  3. Ingrid Bergman in Autumn Sonata
  4. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons
  5. Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  6. Diane Keaton in Annie Hall
  7. Marion Cotillard in La vie en rose
  8. Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves
  9. Jane Fonda in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? 
  10. Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction
  11. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind 
  12. Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence 
  13. Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice
  14. Sophia Loren in Two Women
  15. Liza Minnelli in Cabaret
  16. Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's
  17. Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys
  18. Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity
  19. Elisabeth Shue in Leaving Las Vegas
  20. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  21. Audrey Hepburn in The Nun's Story
  22. Halle Berry in Monster's Ball
  23. Natalie Portman in Black Swan
  24. Charlize Theron in Monster
  25. Liza Minnelli in The Sterile Cuckoo
  26. Kathy Bates in Misery
  27. Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine
  28. Jessica Lange in Frances
  29. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes
  30. Leslie Caron in The L-Shaped Room
  31. Sigourney Weaver in Aliens  
  32. Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom
  33. Jane Fonda in Julia
  34. Judy Garland in A Star is Born
  35. Penélope Cruz in Volver
  36. Jane Fonda in Coming Home
  37. Julianne Moore in Far from Heaven
  38. Joan Fontaine in Rebecca
  39. Liv Ullmann in Face to Face
  40. Sissy Spacek in Carrie 
  41. Anna Magnani in Wild is the Wind 
  42. Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker 
  43. Anna Magnani in The Rose Tattoo
  44. Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
  45. Brenda Blethyn in Secrets and Lies 
  46. Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady
  47. Glenda Jackson in A Touch of Class
  48. Sharon Stone in Casino
  49. Meryl Streep in Postcards from the Edge
  50. Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette
  51. Susan Hayward in I'll Cry Tomorrow
  52. Meryl Streep in Ironweed
  53. Helena Bonham Carter in The Wings of the Dove
  54. Frances McDormand in Fargo
  55. Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter
  56. Isabelle Adjani in The Story of Adele H. 
  57. Jessica Lange in Music Box
  58. Diane Lane in Unfaithful
  59. Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection
  60. Viola Davis in The Help
  61. Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station
  62. Patricia Neal in Hud
  63. Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist
  64. Jane Fonda in The Morning After
  65. Rachel Roberts in This Sporting Life
  66. Geraldine Page in Interiors
  67. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire
  68. Pauline Collins in Shirley Valentine
  69. Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
  70. Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada
  71. Annette Bening in Being Julia
  72. Julie Walters in Educating Rita
  73. Julie Christie in Away from Her
  74. Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  75. Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins
  76. Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia
  77. Kim Stanley in Seance on a Wet Afternoon
  78. Gabourey Sidibe in Precious: Based On the Novel Push by Sapphire
  79. Julie Christie in McCabe and Mrs. Miller
  80. Katharine Hepburn in Long Day's Journey Into Night
  81. Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass
  82. Imelda Staunton  in Vera Drake 
  83. Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal
  84. Jean Simmons in The Happy Ending 
  85. Liv Ullmann in The Emigrants
  86. Catalina Sandino Moreno in Maria Full of Grace
  87. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth
  88. Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer
  89. Judy Davis in A Passage to India
  90. Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole
  91. Cicely Tyson in Sounder
  92. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun
  93. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top
  94. Meryl Streep in Silkwood
  95. Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 
  96. Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs
  97. Glenda Jackson in Sunday Bloody Sunday
  98. Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary
  99. Irene Dunne in Love Affair
  100. Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  101. Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking
  102. Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight
  103. Faye Dunaway in Network
  104. Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin
  105. Carey Mulligan in An Education
  106. Anne Bancroft in The Pumpkin Eater
  107. Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman
  108. Mary McDonnell in Passion Fish
  109. Lynn Redgrave in Georgy Girl
  110. Meryl Streep in A Cry in the Dark
  111. Barbara Stanwyck in Sorry, Wrong Number
  112. Catherine Deneuve in Indochine
  113. Emma Thompson in Howards End
  114. Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen
  115. Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth
  116. Nicole Kidman in The Hours*
  117. Cher in Moonstruck
  118. Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone
  119. Diahann Carroll in Claudine
  120. Claudette Colbert in Since You Went Away
  121. Susan Hayward in I Want to Live!
  122. Judi Dench in Mrs Brown
  123. Helen Hunt in As Good as it Gets
  124. Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth
  125. Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right
  126. Greer Garson in Mrs. Parkington
  127. Susan Sarandon in Lorenzo's Oil
  128. Olivia de Havilland in Hold Back the Dawn
  129. Vanessa Redgrave in The Bostonians
  130. Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People
  131. Marsha Mason in The Goodbye Girl
  132. Debra Winger in An Officer and a Gentleman
  133. Doris Day in Pillow Talk
  134. Melanie Griffith in Working Girl
  135. Valerie Perrine in Lenny
  136. Laura Linney in The Savages
  137. Jane Wyman in The Blue Veil 
  138. Bette Davis in Mr. Skeffington
  139. Sophia Loren in Marriage Italian Style
  140. Helen Mirren in The Queen
  141. Kate Winslet in Little Children
  142. Faye Dunaway in Chinatown
  143. Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were
  144. Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas
  145. Kate Winslet in Titanic
  146. Jessica Lange in Country
  147. Sally Kirkland in Anna
  148. Eleanor Parker in Interrupted Melody
  149. Greta Garbo in Camille
  150. Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses
  151. Geraldine Page in Summer and Smoke
  152. Piper Laurie in The Hustler
  153. Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment
  154. Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God
  155. Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones
  156. Bette Davis in Dark Victory
  157. Anouk Aimée in A Man and A Woman
  158. Meryl Streep in The Bridges of Madison County
  159. Jodie Foster in The Accused
  160. Ida Kaminska in The Shop on the Main Street
  161. Marie-Christine Barrault in Cousin Cousine
  162. Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give
  163. Holly Hunter in Broadcast News
  164. Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility
  165. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka 
  166. Louise Fletcher in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  167. Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda
  168. Helen Mirren in The Last Station 
  169. Jane Wyman in Magnificent Obsession
  170. Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider
  171. Michelle Pfeiffer in Love Field
  172. Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy
  173. Luise Rainer in The Good Earth
  174. Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn
  175. Katharine Hepburn in Summertime
  176. Deborah Kerr in Separate Tables
  177. Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment
  178. Jennifer Jones in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
  179. Maggie Smith in Travels with My Aunt
  180. Carol Kane in Hester Street
  181. Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina
  182. Anne Bancroft in The Turning Point
  183. Shirley MacLaine in Some Came Running
  184. Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman
  185. Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit
  186. Jane Alexander in Testament
  187. Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc
  188. Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story
  189. Greer Garson in Blossoms in the Dust
  190. Joan Fontaine in The Constant Nymph
  191. Marsha Mason in Cinderella Liberty
  192. Anjelica Huston in The Grifters
  193. Isabelle Adjani in Camille Claudel
  194. Sissy Spacek in Crimes of the Heart
  195. Elizabeth Taylor in Raintree County
  196. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer
  197. Natalie Wood in Love with the Proper Stranger
  198. Vanessa Redgrave in Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment
  199. Irene Dunne in I Remember Mama
  200. Janet Suzman in Nicholas and Alexandra
  201. Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!
  202. Greer Garson in Goodbye Mr. Chips
  203. Ingrid Bergman in For Whom the Bell Tolls
  204. Joanne Woodward in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams
  205. Sally Field in Places in the Heart
  206. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story
  207. Judi Dench in Iris
  208. Jean Arthur in The More the Merrier
  209. Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist
  210. Janet Gaynor in A Star is Born
  211. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room
  212. Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient
  213. Sissy Spacek in Missing
  214. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point
  215. Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side 
  216. Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman
  217. Greer Garson in Madame Curie
  218. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve
  219. Glenda Jackson in Hedda
  220. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mamie
  221. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age 
  222. Julie Christie in Afterglow
  223. Kathleen Turner in Peggy Sue Got Married
  224. Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues
  225. Joanne Woodward in Mr. and Mrs. Bridge
  226. Meryl Streep in One True Thing
  227. Joan Fontaine in Suspicion
  228. Geneviève Bujold in Anne of the Thousand Days
  229. Grace Kelly in The Country Girl
  230. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year
  231. Deborah Kerr in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
  232. Shirley MacLaine in Irma La Douce
  233. Lana Turner in Peyton Place
  234. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots
  235. Debbie Reynolds in The Unsinkable Molly Brown
  236. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie
  237. Bette Davis in The Letter
  238. Martha Scott in Our Town
  239. Julie Andrews in Victor Victoria
  240. Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby
  241. Talia Shrie in Rocky
  242. Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love
  243. Naomi Watts in 21 Grams
  244. Sissy Spacek in The River
  245. Samantha Morton in In America
  246. Ellen Page in Juno 
  247. Gena Rowlands in Gloria
  248. Renée Zellweger in Chicago
  249. Salma Hayek in Frida
  250. Ann-Margret in Tommy

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Final Conclusion - Best Actress 2007


So the much anticipated ranking is:

5. Ellen Page in Juno
 I don't really know what to make out of Ellen Page's extremely weak performance. Although the character is incredibly annoying and as fake as possible, I really think that it's more due to Diablo Cody's  incompetent screenplay and Jason Reitman's forced direction. Ellen Page's only fault is that she's just not talented enough to make this character realistic and human. So after all, for me this work is nothing more than a failed effort.

4. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Cate Blanchett's second Elizabeth is a real disappointment, but I'm much more forgiving about it than others. Cate is always such a force on screen that it makes up for the flaws of the character a little bit. Although there's no depth or real development in Elizabeth, Cate is able to prevent the movie from being a total disaster and she kept me from turning off the tv set. A flawed performance for sure, but not a real failure.

3. Laura Linney in The Savages
Laura Linney gives an extremely relatable, wonderful performance as a person who doesn't seem to be likeable at all at first sight and yet we get close to her and sympathise with her character. She never goes for cheap tricks to portray the neurotic personality of Wendy. She excellently mixes comedy with drama, creating the ideal dramedy performance while seeming effortless all the time (something that one of her fellow nominees didn't really succeed in). 

2. Julie Christie in Away from Her
 As Fiona Anderson, Julie Christie gives an amazing, heartbreaking performance that stays with you long after you finished watching the film. She portrays Fiona's pain and suffering with an incredible amount of grace and dignity and that's what makes this movie even more effective and heartwrenching. Although Julie's acting might be too subtle and seem too effortless for some, for me this is a true masterclass in acting, which is easily among the greatest achievements of this fantastic actress.

1. Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose
In what's one of my easiest decisions ever, Marion easily walks away with this year. She is nothing short of amazing in every possible way an actress can be. Her performance has the effect of an earthquake: it makes you go through Édith's journey along with her and get to understand why this woman was such a brilliant artist. It's very unusual, extraordinary and unbelievable work from a truly great actress who gives probably the most  brilliant portrayal of a real life person.

So I can proudly announce
that the winner is...
Marion Cotillard
La vie en rose
Easy win.

Final thoughts: What an unexcting year! Everything went the way I expected and things went pretty predictably. Marion simply killed her competition, Julie was shining, Laura was fine and then there were the two other ladies, far behind. With hindsight, I can't see how Marion could have lost this, she's so damn good here. Congrats to Andre Lepaun, Louis and Nues20 on your predictions! :) You can pick a year, that I'm gonna do some time, hopefully. :)

  • Anamaria Marinca in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

About the next year: I really needed to go back to my favorite decade and my most special actress for some refreshment. :) I think this is enough clue. :) 

What do you think? Any thoughts on your mind?

Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Cate Blanchett received her fifth Oscar nomination for reprising her role as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. At the time, people were stunned and pissed that Cate stole the spot of Angelina Jolie whose performance was hailed by critics and audiences all over the world. However, Cate managed to pull off the double nomination. Obviously, she had absolutely no chance of winning Best Actress and I don't think she wanted to win that badly (just remember her genuinely thrilled face when Marion won). Nevertheless, she remained to be one of the least liked nominees this category has ever known (though I feel that the bad memory's gradually gonna fade in people's memory). 

While Elizabeth: The Golden Age is an entertaining movie, I felt it was a completely useless effort. First of all, to me, the first Elizabeth is a real classic and it's the main reason I fell for the genre. It had everything: great drama, flawless acting, battle, intrigue, blood and sex plus above all, a fantastic, plus the brilliant-brilliant performance of Cate Blanchett (yes, I'm seriously considering making her my 1998 winner after all). The Golden Age was bound to fail in comparision with the first part and unfortunately it wasn't a pleasant surprise. It was surprisingly unbalanced and shallowly written and the battle wasn't as epic as I remembered. I just don't like it when historical movies turn out to be soap operas, simple as that.

However, I DO love Cate Blanchett and she always makes up for the mistakes of her movies. There's just a special aura of greatness around her, which makes you shake in your boots. What I mostly admire about her is her incredible range: it doesn't matter if she has to play a fallen teacher in Notes on a Scandal, Kate Hepburn in The Aviator or Queen Elizabeth for that matter. Being trained in the theatre is surely a great push for any actress and in that way she's just like Great Glenn: she brings her confidence and energy from the stage to her movie, which lead to wonderfully vital and balanced performances.

And yet, not even Cate is able to resurrect the legend in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. She's a brilliant actress but not a miracle worker. Actually, I feel it's easier to stand out in a bad movie with a showy character (just see the 65% of Meryl Streep's movies) than being in a so-so movie with an incomplete, one-dimensional character. Queen Elizabeth is a character that's so often portrayed that it's very difficult to add layers to her character and it takes a less-known story of her life to find out  something new and interesting about her. The story with Mary Stuart is a very interesting one and so is the one with the Spanish armada, but I felt the movie wanted a bit too much with showing both of them. As a result, we don't get a real insight into Elizabeth's life, we just get to se small, rushed chapters.

My main problem was that Cate seemed to give in way too early and turned out to be Joan Collins earlier than she could have. A bitchy soap diva might be amusing to see, but hardly Oscar-worthy. What makes Cate better than that is simply that previously mentioned energy of hers. Although some might argue that it would have better for her to go all the way with being campy, I think it was better to keep some sense of nobility and dignity around Queen Elizabeth. I think it's one of the biggest misconception of people that Elizabeth was a drama queen and that's what made the first Elizabeth so special: Elizabeth was portrayed as a powerful woman, full of passion and doubts about herself. I understand that power and being a queen changed Elizabeth as a person, I just refuse to believe that it could transform such a strong character in such a dramatic way. I don't think she became a whiny schoolgirl after all those years.

That being said, this Elizabeth doesn't develop more than characters from Melrose Place, you can just see patterns in her: she's bitchy, than she shouts and she calms down eventually. With such shallow writing, I don't think Cate could have done wonders with the part. She's given neither the time nor the opportunities the make up for all the flaws in the writing (she could have pulled it off if the movie had been just twenty minutes longer). Whenever something interesting is about to happen, there's a useless scene of an assasination or torturing, which is in Cate's way. As a result, none of the relationships seems realistic or complex enough.

And we got to another sore subject: the (lack of) chemistry between Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen. There were two good-looking, exceptionally talented actors and yet there's no fire and music around them: the five minutes that they spend together just doesn't convince me that this relationship caused such a crisis in Elizabeth's life. We supposed to believe something that is seemingly missing from the movie and all this just weakens Cate's efforts.

The same applies for the execution of Mary Stuart: instead of suggesting real moral dilemma, the movie decides to show a whiny Elizabeth who easily gives in to her advisors. This storyline is probably one of the most wasted ones ever in the history of film. And in spite of all these things, Cate was still able to draw my attention. And why is that? Because she's an f-ing brilliant actress and it's always a joy to see a performer at the top of her career, even if the role doesn't live up to her wonderful talent. Despite all the obstacles, Cate simply cannot lose her charm and powerful presence and that's what she has and Ellen Page doesn't: Cate is capable of showing her greatness even with the shittiest material (even if it's for a short period of time). And a great actress always remains one.

To sum up, Cate Blanchett's second Elizabeth is a real disappointment, but I'm much more forgiving about it than others. Cate is always such a force on screen that it makes up for the flaws of the character a little bit. Although there's no depth or real development in Elizabeth, Cate is able to prevent the movie from being a total disaster and she kept me from turning off the tv set. A flawed performance for sure, but not a real failure.

What do you think? (The very predictable conclusion comes today as well so that I can finally move on from this bland, uninteresting year to something REALLY excting.)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ellen Page in Juno

Ellen Page received her only Oscar nomination so far for playing Juno MacGuff, a really weird pregnant teenager who's giving up her baby for adoption in the Best Picture nominee, Juno. Until the Globes, Ellen Page seemed to be the real dark horse of the race who even had a chance of upsetting Julie Christie on Oscar. However, the Globes turned out to be in favor of the earth-shattering Marion Cotillard and this undoubtedly boosted her chances and jeopardized Ellen's. With hindsight, things turned out much better this way as Page didn't really go on to give better than average performances after her breakthrough in Juno (of course, not everybody has the luck and star power of Jennifer Lawrence, but look how wonderfully Carey Mulligan develops, for instance). 

Ellen Page's nomination can most easily be explained by the insane hype around Juno, which also helped the movie itself receive a really undeserved Best Picture nomination (beating out masterpieces like 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days or Gone Baby Gone etc.). With hindsight, all the four nominations seem ridiculous to me. Jason Reitman's direction is nothing to write home about and just don't even get me started on Diablo Cody's  quite simply, terrible screenplay. She has absolutely no idea on how human beings work in real life and what could have been a socially relevant AND extremely humourous movie, turned out to be forced and schmaltzy. Even a high school drama student writes smarter dialogues. Still, I don't blame the Academy for rewarding her with the Oscar. First of all, they must have been taken by the hype (like I was) and they really had no other alternative thanks to the genious "I'm an ex-stripper who wants to make it big in Hollywood" 

However, I must also remember that this review is about the achievements of Ellen Page who plays the title role of Juno. In my humble opinion, Ellen Page is a weak, extremely one-dimensional actress (from what I've seen of course) who always tries to stick to playing her usual weird, but attractive young girl. And no matter how hard she tried, she cannot pull off being a believable femme fatale (like in the otherwise entertaining To Rome with Love) and her lack of true talent becomes painfully obvious when she's among true A-listers (like in Inception). 

Since this very pale actress worked from the incompetent screenplay of Diablo Cody, I expected nothing better than average. However, the result didn't even reach the level of mediocrity and I actually feel like writing a whole list of all the aspects of Ellen's performance that I disliked. She portrays Juno as a real weird girl with a weird family and even weirder observations. There's a scene when Juno talks about her classmates at school and how the cool guys actually go for girls like Juno and somehow the movie Monster came to my mind, when Aileen tells Selby what the guys at the skating rink must go for. From an experienced, 30 + prostitute, it felt authentic, but not from a 16-year-old, not so much. And strangely, these things could have worked if a more talented and humorous actress delivered these with real irony instead of faked and artificial sarcasm. And yes, this actually seemed charming and smart back in 2007 with all the hype around the movie, but with hindsight, I'm amazed that this movie got so far.

In the end, it really is the delivery of Ellen that pisses me off the most (that Mogan Freeman sentence is one of the most annoying ones in movie history). There wasn't a word coming out of her mouth that seemed to come out naturally and genuinely and she says them all in the same way, with the same face and the same tones in her voice. It really gets annoyingly repetitive after a while. And this is where (I think), Jason Reitman came into picture. Obviously, this was a very much directed performance and in my humble opion, Reitman wanted his movie to seem as hip and smart as possible so he forced his actors to talk like nobody in real life does, which wouldn't be a problem if the movie didn't try to also be realistic. This smart ass attitude certainly did wonders with Young Adult, but again, the two stories and main characters are completely different.

These desperate attempts from the filmmakers to make the movie cooler result in the complete lack of development in the characters. I think portraying Juno's attitudes towards pregnancy and motherhood were pivotal to the success of the film and Ellen's performance and yet it almost felt secondary that she was actually pregnant. The terrible, haunting desperation of the girls 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is not what I missed from this movie, it's just some dilemma. Just think about the scene at the abrotion clinic: it was full of great opportunities and yet they were all sacrificed in order to let Ellen Page deliver some cheesy, unbelievable lines. I never actually felt for Juno or cared about her because the movie showed none of her pain or dilemma (she's a PREGNANT TEENAGER, for crying out loud). And since Jennifer Garner was able to pull off the only decent performance of the movie (a really great one, actually), the lack of greatness from Ellen becomes even more apparent and annoying. One honest moment comes finally, when Juno cries in the car, which might seem out of place, but I think it's only because it really stands out of the movie.

The scenes of the childbirth are also surprisingly better than the rest of the film. While I don't know if it was just the emotionality of the situation or something beyond that, I started to feel for the characters (only to instantly leave it behind this when the cheesy ending with the singing came). Even the horrible Michael Cera - Ellen Page couple seemed to be working for a couple of minutes (despite the fact that they annoyed the hell out of me in the rest of the film).

All in all, I don't really know what to make out of Ellen Page's extremely weak performance. Although the character is incredibly annoying and as fake as possible, I really think that it's more due to Diablo Cody's  incompetent screenplay and Jason Reitman's forced direction. Ellen Page's only fault is that she's just not talented enough to make this character realistic and human. So after all, for me this work is nothing more than a failed effort.

What do you think? I'm BACK!!!! :)))) Did you miss me?